Subtitling & Captioning
I have extensive experience with subtitling and captioning for a wide range of TV, DVD, web, and theatrical content, including time-cuing, translation, and transcription. I have used various pieces of software and I can conform to most requirements you might have – or help you choose guidelines for your subtitles, if you are unfamiliar with the field.
Why is “subtitling” an important task?
“Subtitles” are those lines of text at the bottom of the movie screen, which look quite exotic to most people in the English-speaking world, and are usually associated with film festivals and long, confusing European movies.
However, in a small country like Bulgaria, a large part of TV and video content is subtitled, including virtually all theatrical releases (except for animated movies). This is due to the fact that voice-over talent is somewhat scarce, and employing it is substantially more expensive than having content subtitled. People are so used to subtitles that many of them actually prefer having films subtitled and hearing the original actors’ voices, rather than having them dubbed over.
Even though it is a cheaper alternative to dubbing, subtitling is not a diminutive task. Proper subtitling requires excellent linguistic skills, a profound understanding of the source, and excellent listening comprehension, when there is no script.
Since written text is comprehended more slowly than perceived audio, quality subtitles need to walk a fine line between covering the source’s meaning well and trimming the unnecessary chatter, in order to be readable with a given speed (measured in words per minute or characters per second). They also need to conform to visual and aesthetic standards for the number of lines, character limitations per line, relative length of the lines to each other, and even what words can “hang” at the end of a line, and what words shouldn’t.
That is why high quality subtitling is a kind of alchemy between listening, understanding, writing, and arranging. When properly done, it should complement the video content’s concept and style, rather than distract from it. Very good subtitles help the viewers feel immersed in the film and make them forget that there is a textual “mediator” between them and the contents of the screen.